Angela Crawley MP: “Time to axe the tax for survivors of domestic abuse”

MP for Lanark and Hamilton East launches petition to scrap “cruel” child support charge

“CRUEL AND UNNECESSARY” was how SNP spokesperson for equalities Angela Crawley described the charge on child support payments survivors of domestic abuse are being asked to pay by the UK Government.

The Lanark and Hamilton East MP launched a petition alongside campaigners in Hamilton today (Thursday 9 February) calling for the UK Government to scrap the “cruel and callous” tax on victims of domestic abuse.

Their petition calls for the UK Government to remove the 4 per cent collection charge on child maintenance payments that applies to parents using the newly reformed ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service.

“Children of parents affected by domestic abuse, often those most likely to live in poverty, are losing out on vital income.” Marion Davies

Speaking at the launch, Angela Crawley said: “Victims are domestic abuse should be protected by the UK Government, not punished financially for their inability to engage with their abusive ex-partner.

“The UK Government advises victims of domestic abuse that they should utilise their less safe ‘Direct-Pay’ scheme, which has no powers of enforcement and allows continued communication through bank transfers.

“The Tories have shown a complete lack of compassion by introducing this charge and even worse, they actually risk putting the lives of domestic abuse victim-survivors and their children in real danger.”

“Victims are domestic abuse should be protected by the UK Government, not punished financially for their inability to engage with their abusive ex-partner.” Angela Crawley MP

A UK Government spokesperson in response to the petition maintained the argument that the charge is needed to cover the costs of clerical and administration services and to encourage a “family based” agreement outside the control of government. But critics argue that the charge robs single parents and mostly women in already stretched economic circumstances of more resources for their families.

Additionally, a ‘family-based’ approach for domestic abuse survivors means the terror and discomfort of coming into regular unsafe contact with former partners.

Marion Davies, the head of policy at the campaign group One Parent Family Scotland, said: "We really welcome this campaign by Angela Crawley MP. Children of parents affected by domestic abuse, often those most likely to live in poverty, are losing out on vital income. Child maintenance should be a right of every child if their non-resident parent has the income to contribute."

“Child maintenance should be a right of every child if their non-resident parent has the income to contribute." Marion Davies

Davies, speaking to CommonSpace, also expressed grave doubts about the claims by the UK Government that the 4 per cent charge was for bolstering administration. This she felt ran contrary to the claim that the government believed in slimming down the service and the whole of their welfare approach.

Crawley also described how limiting the overall welfare system was for women, families and Scotland. Especially given the context of the newly developed powers given to the Scottish Government, Crawley stated it would better if more welfare and taxation powers were brought to Scotland which would empower women, families and communities.

Angela Crawley added: “The UK Government must look again at this unfair tax and listen to the cross-party calls to scrap it – ultimately, it will be the children that child maintenance payments are intended to support who will lose out.”

“The UK Government must look again at this unfair tax and listen to the cross-party calls to scrap it.” Angela Crawley

Additionally, the ‘Direct-Pay’ service which the UK Government is encouraging more people to use does not offer the same protections as the older ‘Collect-and-Pay’. Although the UK Government describes the ‘Direct Pay’ as “less bureaucratic”, advocates of the petition say it doesn't have the same safeguards in place to protects receiving parents.

Payments made to the ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service can be removed directly from the paying parent’s bank account. Moreover, there are tough enforcement powers ensuring maintenance is paid timely and in full.

In addition to the petition, the Lanark MP hopes to build support for scrapping the fees across the political divide. Labour MPs such as Jess Phillips along with Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP from Northern Ireland have signalled support. The DUP’s Mark Durkan also have expressed support for scrapping the fees. However, Crawley is hopeful to win support from Conservative members. 

Picture courtesy of Josh Wilson

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